Rand Fishkin wrapped up Mozcon 2013 in style by outlining his principles for great marketing and leading a discussion on the problems with Internet marketing today. Here are the six ingredients that he laid out in his talk.

Pluto Nash
According to Rand – you’re more likely to have seen “Pluto Nash” on opening weekend, than click on a display ad.

Fishkin said that the common and cheap tactics which most Internet marketers employ are holding the field of marketing back.

He cited:

  • 98% of Americans distrust information on the web
  • 8% of Internet users account for 85% of clicks on ads
  • 50% of ad clicks on mobile banners are accidental
  • 70% of CEOs say they have lost trust in marketers

Overall, very few people click on display ads, yet the majority of ad dollars spent online still go to SEO and display ads rather than creating content which is link worthy.

Fishkin said that every great marketer uses a combination of the following characteristics.

1. Transparency

Transparency is a core component to marketing, but it often sounds easier than it is. That’s because it requires revealing information which the most corporate cultures would prefer not disclosing.

By being transparent, Fishkin feels that users develop a trust in the brands that they interact with and develop a deeper connection with them. So, in his view, it is far better to share highs and lows.

2. Authenticity

Brands define what they stand for and stay authentic throughout all of their marketing and messaging, says Fishkin. Customers can clearly see through fake messaging. And, in a world where everyone is faking it, authentic brands develop the best connections with customers. Moz spells out what they stand for on their site and they rarely deviate from it in their communication. They even have become known for their TAGFEE (Transparent, Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, and Exceptional) values.

He also praised Lego for defining what they stand for (being creative) and remaining authentic to their principles in their advertising. Here’s one of their ads that Fishkin particularly liked.

Lego Advertising

3. Generosity

All good marketing contains some element of generosity. This implies a willingness to give things away at a discounted rate or free periodically. Moz does this by providing free information about SEO on their website in addition to posting a video each week defining a concept on the whiteboard.  Uber is another example since the private driving service regularly provides event goers with a free ride in exchange for signing up.

4. Fun

Even the most mundane topics should be lightened up to be marketed correctly. While some would argue that some topics are so dry that they can’t be presented in a lighthearted manner, Fishkin said that this is just a cop out for people lacking creativity. For example for a subject as dry as criminal law, Burney’s Illustrated Guides to Criminal Law, managed to lighten it up by creating hand-drawn illustrations. The comics were a hit, going viral and allowing the lawyer, Burney to even get a publishing deal from the series. Here’s one example of his work:

Illustrated Law

5. Empathy

Good marketing sees the world from the eye of the customer and tailors its message accordingly. Rather than a company just listing its features, it should tell you exactly how it will solve your pain. If you’re curious on what pains your customers may have, he suggests you put your company name into Google auto-complete.

6. Being Exceptional

In a world where everyone is copying each other, Fishkin said that great marketers should zag when everyone else is zigging. This means being the outlier in ways that make you stand out from the crowd.

For example, he said Fast Company bucked the trend of writing short summary articles and has become known for splendid long-form journalism.

Apple also bucked the trend of black earbuds when they released their iPod, causing their white earbuds to become something for which they were known.

Moz also zagged in two distinct ways: rejecting a move to Sillicon Valley to raise the capital and by creating a sales pipeline which doesn’t require a sales force.

The slides from the presentation can be found here.

Naysawn Naderi is in the process of founding a new company.  He previously founded ArtSumo.com and was a Program Manager at Microsoft. 

Editor’s note: Moz is a GeekWire annual sponsor.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Stephen Schramke

    Sage advice. Easier said that done. It is what separates good from great. Thanks for sharing.

  • Fishy

    Fishkin must own a stake in Geekwire. How else would one explain his constant inclusion on it? It is so tiresome.

    • http://www.artsumo.com Naysawn Naderi

      Hey Fishy – the article without Rand’s input. He gave a quality presentation with unique thought and it deserved to be covered…

      • Fishy

        I bet he gets more coverage on here than any other single person, anywhere. So, how much of Geekwire does he own exactly?

        • johnhcook

          Just to be clear, Rand Fishkin and Moz do not have an ownership stake in GeekWire. The reason the company has been on the site a lot recently is because they’ve been in the news– changing their name; rolling out a new product; and getting entangled in a naming spat with Doz. (A story they probably would not want to see here). They also just hosted a big conference in Seattle — Mozcon — and Naysawn offered to cover some of those talks for us and we thought they would have some value to readers.
          We do disclose that Moz is an annual sponsor of GeekWire, but that has nothing to do with the coverage. We keep a wall between our editorial and advertising operations.
          Sometimes companies just go through spurts of news — and that’s what appears to be happening here. Appreciate you tuning in to GeekWire.
          John Cook
          Co-founder, GeekWire

        • http://startedinseattle.com/ ChetCrunch

          GeekWire, in case you’re unaware, is “a technology news site and online community…covering the people, companies and innovations emerging from the Pacific Northwest and impacting the world.” That means when relevant/compelling things happen in the technology sector, GeekWire is going to cover it. As John said, Moz has had several compelling stories to tell lately, and most technology fans/followers in the Pacific Northwest would be displeased if John and his people at GeekWire chose to ignore these things.

Job Listings on GeekWork